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Two young brothers, Nathaniel and John Chapman, entered the
Black Bear Tavern, the largest building in Pittsburgh back in 1788.
They were looking for a place to sleep in this little village on the
Western Frontier. All of the rooms were filled, so they had to sleep on
the floor in the corner of the bar. Little did the bar keeper realize
that one day one of these brothers, John, would become one of the
most famous characters West of the Allegheny Mountains. John had
been to Harvard, and had also been a missionary preaching the
doctrines of the Swedish mystic Swedenborg. He came to Pittsburgh
because it was the point from which people departed for settlements in
Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
John and his brother went up the Allegheny River to visit an uncle.
When they found his cabin enemy they decided to settle there for
awhile. John noted that there was an absence of fruit trees in the area,
and he decided to do something about it. He found an neglected
orchard and set out hundreds of apple tree shoots. Clarence
Macartney in his book of historical studies called Right Here In
Pittsburgh says, “This was probably the first nursery in the West.”
John became so concerned about orchards and the providing of fruit
for the people moving West that he made it his life work to plant apple
He said, “Fruit is next to religion. I use to be a Bible missionary
down in Virginia, but now I believe I’ll be an apple missionary. He
chose a very fruitful profession, and he was a marvelous success at it.
He became known all over the country as Johnny Appleseed.
Everywhere he went he carried his bag of apple seed and he planted
them. He said, “I am going to sow the West with apple seeds, making
the wilderness to blossom with their beauty, and the people happy with
their fruit.”
On horseback, in canoe, and on foot he roamed the wilds of
Western Pennsylvania, Southern New York, and Ohio. He kept a
cabin near Pittsburgh. He dressed with ragged, ill fitting, faded
garments. He went barefoot and had long black hair that fell over his
shoulders. He made friends wherever he went as he sowed his seeds
and preached from the Bible. When the Indian wars raged through
Ohio, he was the only white man who could go on roaming the woods
and not be killed, for the Indians also loved him. For 50 years he lived
a vagabond life risking every danger to sow his seeds. More than once
he was brought down by malaria. Robert Luccock in The Last Gospel
tells of how on one occasion he was found by a pioneer in an Ohio
River settlement dying with an intense fever. He did not know who he
was, but he called for a doctor. The doctor came and seeing him
clutching a bag of seed with the initials JC burned into the leather
said, “It’s Jonathan Chapman that good Samaritan of Pittsburgh
come to settle among us. Praise God from who all blessing flow.”
At the age of 79 Johnny Appleseed died at Fort Wayne, Indiana
where he is buried. Monuments have been created in his memory, and
many legends have surrounded his career. In the U. S. Senate,
General Sam Houston of Texas paid this eulogy to Johnny Appleseed:
“This old man was one of the most useful citizens of the world in his
humble way. He has made a greater contribution to our civilization
than we realize. He has left a place that can never be filled. Farewell,
dear old eccentric heart. You labor has been a labor of love…” We
are interested in this life, because his life of love and fruit illustrates
the ideal of the New Testament for the Christian. Our goal is not
apples, but our goal is fruit. As Peter indicates here, and as the whole
Bible makes clear, the purpose of all virtues, including love, is that
they might lead us to fruitful living.
Johnny Appleseed dressed like a bum, had his hair like a hippie,
had habits as strange as John the Baptist, and was just a very unusual
man, but he became a great success because fruit was his aim, and he
fulfilled that aim. Without fruit he would have been considered an
eccentric old fool and a mad man. Fruit made the difference, and
fruit will make the difference for all of us between failure and success.
Fruit is one of the key themes of the Bible. God is a God of fruit,
and all that is in harmony with His will is fruitful. Paradise was
paradise because of the fruitfulness of nature. To be put out of
paradise was to have to labor for food, for the earth was less fruitful
outside of paradise. When paradise is regained, Rev. 22:2 describes it
as possessing fruitfulness beyond anything we, or Johnny Appleseed,
could ever imagine. A tree bearing 12 kinds of fruit and yielding its
fruit every month.
The Godly in the Bible are often likened to a tree, and the effects
of their godliness to fruit. In Psa. 1 he who delights in the law of God,
“..Shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit
in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he
prospers.” Success and fruit go together.
Paul was a Johnny Gospelseed going everywhere sowing the seeds of
life in Christ. He says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the
increase. The whole ministry of the church is symbolized in fruit
bearing. Jesus sent forth His disciples that they might bear fruit.
It was no accident that the Holy Spirit came upon the church at
Pentecost. This was the great feast of harvest when the fruits were
gathered in. What delight God has in harmony and beauty of
symbolism. The coming of the Spirit was the beginning of the harvest
of the church. Three thousand souls were saved that day, and the
church immediately began to bear fruit. The dry bones of Israel were
clothed with living flesh. The desert of Israel began to bloom like a
rose, and began to produce the fruits necessary to refresh the world
and bring new life to all.
Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had no fruit. It was a symbol of
Israel. Israel was cut off because she was barren and unfruitful, and a
new branch was grafted in, which was the Gentiles. God just will not
tolerate perpetual unfruitfulness. Jesus tells us clearly why Israel was
replaced by the church to represent the kingdom of God on earth. In
Matt. 21:43 he said to the Jewish leaders, “The kingdom of God will
be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruit of
it.” Even the kingdom of God is of no value if it produces no fruit.
Every gift of God and every virtue is of no value if they do not
produce fruit.
Jesus was very fruit conscience. In the Parable of the Sower He
taught that much seed is choked out before it bears fruit, and so is of
no value. But some seed goes on to bear fruit, and some a hundred,
some sixty, and some thirty. Not all seed is equally fruitful, but any
fruit is some measure of success. John the Baptist required fruit as
evidence of repentance. Jesus said that by their fruits you shall know
them. Fruit is the test of all truth. That is why Paul warns Christians
not to partake of the unfruitful works of darkness. The Christian
should be so fruit conscience that he does not waste his life on what is
unprofitable. This is even so in spiritual experiences. We are urged to
aim for the best and most fruitful gifts.
In I Cor. 14:14 Paul says, “..if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays
but my mind is unfruitful.” The good can be the enemy of the best and
rob us of fruit. All we do needs to be evaluated according to its
fruitfulness. We can get caught up into the 7th heaven in emotion but
if we do not turn this spiritual experience into some sort of
fruitfulness, it is all in vain. Fruit is what counts, and fruit alone is
success. Even the death of Christ is a fruit issue. In John 12:24 He
says, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain a wheat falls into the
earth and dies, it abides alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” A
seed that does not die and thereby bear fruit is of no value. It is as
worthless as a dead rock. Success for a seed is in bearing fruit, and if
it cannot bear fruit without dying, then dying is the only way to
success. So it is with the seed of David-the Lord Jesus Christ, and so it
is for all who follow Him. Whatever the cost we must pay the price to
bear fruit, for fruit is success.
In the light of all this, which does not begin to cover all the stress of
Scripture on fruit, we can see why Peter makes the goal of all these
virtues the escaping of an unfruitful life. This is the worst possible fate
for a Christian to be a dead an barren branch. The world desperately
needs a army of Johnny Gosepseeds planting the trees of life in the
wilderness of the world.
When Julian the Apostate was Emperor of the Roman Empire, this
is what he wrote to a pagan priest: “Let us consider that nothing has
contributed so much to the progress of the superstition of the
Christians, as their charity to strangers. I think we ought to discharge
this obligation ourselves. Establish hospitals in every place, for it
would be a shame in us to abandon our poor, while the Jews have
none, and the impious Galileans (thus he calls the Christians) provide
not only for their own poor, but also for ours.” Here is pagan
testimony to the fruit bearing power of agape love. The love of
Christians even gets their enemies to do good works just to try and
keep the church from getting all the credit. God alone knows all the
good evil men have done in order to keep others from turning to
Christ. Government programs of welfare do much good, but they rob
the church of her fruits. People now look to the government when
they use to look to Christians motivated by the love of Christ to meet
their needs.
We seldom stop to realize that even good works divorce from the
Gospel are the means by which the powers of darkness can keep
people from turning to the light. If Satan can meet all a man’s needs
on the physical level, why should he turn to the church or to Christ?
This means the government programs compete with the church for the
allegiance of men, The church must be actively engaged in
demonstrating love on every level, and do it in the name of Christ, for
only as men see that we are motivated by His love will they turn to
Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the gifted Negro poet, felt deep bitterness
over the injustice to his people. He was a cynic and his poetry
reflected this.
A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in,
A minute to smile and an hour to weep in,
A pint of joy to a peck of trouble,
An never a laugh but the moans came double,
And that is life!
Before he died at the age of 33 he experienced the love of Christ in
his own life, and he was transformed. Instead of the soar and bitter
fruit of despair, he bore the sweet attractive fruit of the Spirit, and he
A crust and a corner that love makes precious,
With a smile to warm and the tears to refresh us,
And joy seem sweeter when cares come afar,
And a moan is the finest foil for laughter,
And that is life!
Paul Dunbar became a success before he died because he boar the
fruit of the Spirit, and fruit is success. This is the goal for every
Christian. We must produce that fruit which attracts the hungry soul
to Christ. If the church is ineffective today, it is because they are like
neglected orchards. The fruit is small an unappealing. Hungry minds
and hearts are looking elsewhere for satisfaction. We must each strive
to produce fruit according to our gifts. God does not expect a
grapevine to produce watermelons, nor does he expect an apple tree
to produce corn. Each is to produce according to its gifts. You are
not to compare yourself with anyone else, but to measure how
effective you are in the use of your own gifts. If you have the gift of
helping others and no one is thanking you for your help, you are not
using your gift, and are not producing fruit. Evaluate your gifts in
the light of whether they are producing fruit.
Fruit is what we give back to God for the gift of salvation. Salvation
is what we accept from God, but fruit is what we achieve for God.
Salvation is a gift from God, but fruit is a goal we reach for God.
Salvation comes as free grace, but fruit comes by fertile growth.
Salvation is God’s investment in us, but fruit is the interest we return
to God on His investment. May God help us to be successful in our
service for Him by striving to bear fruit, for fruit is success.

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